The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Cops, courts and fires

October 11, 2013

Jury finds in favor of victim in bullying case

School corporation to pay damages

ANDERSON — A jury has decided in favor of a former Pendleton Heights student in a civil trial involving an instance of extreme bullying in 2008.

On Thursday, a six-member jury decided to award damages to the woman and her family, who brought the tort claim against South Madison Community School Corp. The woman claimed that Pendleton Heights High School and the school district mishandled, or neglected to handle, the fallout of the incident.

The three-day trial wrapped up on Thursday after closing arguments by plaintiff attorney Steven Smith and defense attorney Eric Brodt. With the case decided in the victim's favor, the trial will conclude on Tuesday in Madison Circuit Court 3 with a conference on the monetary amount to be awarded to the woman and her family. On Tuesday, Smith said the family is seeking monetary damages but there's been no discussion about a specific amount.

According to court documents, when the woman, 15 years old at the time, went to school on March 11, 2008, she found out there were pictures of her Photoshopped in a sexually suggestive manner posted all around the school. The fliers also included her real phone number.

The case files indicate school officials determined who the culprit was and immediately suspended him from school. He was also charged as a minor for distribution of child pornography and child exploitation and was later placed on juvenile detention.

The woman and her family claimed that South Madison Community School Corp. was negligent in their handling of the matter, that proper counseling wasn't offered to the victim after the incident and that the family has struggled to recover since.

One key witness Tuesday was Dr. Pamela Porter, an expert in post-traumatic stress disorder who counseled the victim and her family after the incident. Porter said the woman now suffers symptoms of PTSD. The victim reported having symptoms of a panic attack the day of the incident, Porter said, and still has difficulty interacting with people without feeling anxious.

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